BUFFALO – Gerrit Cole didn’t directly weigh in on the third-rail topic, but the ace didn’t steer clear of it outright, either.
So it goes when it comes to the always controversial topic of personal catchers for pitchers and, for the rest of the 2020 season at least, it sure seems as if Kyle Higashioka will be Cole’s.
Manager Aaron Boone said Higashioka, the backup catcher who has caught each of Cole’s last three starts, "probably" will catch a fourth straight Tuesday night. And the manager indicated that pairing likely will continue in the postseason.
Boone, however, said if that does end up being the case, it should not be read as an indictment of starter Gary Sanchez, the most polarizing of all Yankees among the fan base. With the way the playoffs are structured this season, it isn’t realistic for one catcher to carry the load.
"If we’re fortunate to get through the best-of-three scenario [in the wild-card round]," Boone said, "then you’re talking about potentially five days in a row with no off-day [in the division round], and seven in a row with no off-day [in the ALCS], so I think . . . your backup catcher needs to play a role in that scenario."
Cole is 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA, but 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA — with 27 strikeouts and five walks in 20 innings — his last three starts. Overall, Cole has those numbers in three starts total with Higashioka while producing a 3.91 ERA in eight games with Sanchez.
"I think I can work with pretty much anybody," Cole said Monday. "There are some things that have worked out in the last few starts that may lead the manager to lean one way or the other, but ultimately it’s not my call and I’ll be ready with whoever’s out there. I think both backstops that have caught me this year have done a great job."
After slashing .423/.516/.1.038 with four homers, four doubles, five walks, nine runs and 10 RBIs over six games, DJ LeMahieu was awarded AL Player of the Week honors. LeMahieu, who entered Monday leading the AL in hitting with a .361 average, is trying to become the first Yankees’ batting champion since Bernie Williams in 1998. He also is attempting to become just the second player in MLB history to win a batting title in both leagues, joining Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty. LeMahieu, then with the Rockies, won the 2016 NL batting title, hitting .348.
And that’s about the last thing on the second baseman’s mind.
"I honestly view it as a distraction because you’re worrying about people in a game that’s not even where we’re playing," LeMahieu said of the batting title. "I think if I get caught up in that I feel like it ends up going backwards. I just want to finish strong, I want our team to finish strong and finish on top like we set out to do."